On Feb. 9, Rep. Christopher Lee, R-N.Y., resigned from his seat in the House of Representatives after a woman with whom he had communicated on Craigslist sent a shirtless picture he had provided to the New York news blog Gawker.
"I regret the harm that my actions have caused my family, my staff and my constituents," Lee said in a statement. "I deeply and sincerely apologize to them all. I have made profound mistakes and I promise to work as hard as I can to seek their forgiveness."
Gawker published an e-mail message Lee had sent to a woman posting a "women seeking men" advertisement on Craigslist. Lee attached the photo to the e-mail. Lee, who is 46 years old and married, told the woman that he was a 39-year-old divorced lobbyist, but provided his real name. The woman shared the e-mail with Gawker after doing an Internet search of Lee's name.
While Gov. Andrew Cuomo has yet to announce plans for a special election, Erie County Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy said that interviews for potential candidates to replace Lee will take place on Sunday. The GOP chairmen for the seven counties represented by New York's 26th Congressional District – all or parts of Livingston, Erie, Niagara, Orleans, Monroe, Genesee and Wyoming – will vote and announce their party's candidate in the special election on Feb. 21.
Reportedly on the GOP's short list are Amherst Town Supervisor Barry Weinstein; Jack Davis, a Democrat turned Republican who unsuccessfully challenged Rep. Tom Reynolds for the Senate seat in past elections; Chris Jacobs, member of the Buffalo school board; the reported front-runner, state assemblywoman Jane Corwin; Dan Humiston, a businessman and owner of Tanning Bed, Inc.; and Erie County lawmaker Ed Rath.
Erie County Democratic Party Chairman Len Lenihan said that the Democrats are considering running a candidate even though the district favors Republicans. On the Democrats' list are Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul, Erie County Comptroller Mark Poloncarz and Amherst Town Board Member Mark Manna.
Independent candidates are also allowed to run in the special election, provided that they can collect 3,500 petition signatures from residents of the district.